The Conformist

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The Conformist was a major European film in 1969 and established a new standard and style for cinematography. It was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci whose next film was Last Tango in Paris. Set in Fascist-era Italy it followed the story of Marcello Clerici as he marries into a stuffy bourgeois family and plots the political assassination of his former professor.

The cinematographer was Vittorio Storaro, who later won an Oscar for Apocalypse Now. His influence on subsequent film was felt in Hollywood where the new generation of directors, Coppola, Scorcese and others, absorbed his lessons on the editorial capacities of the camera. Storaro is not just a recorder of events but a full creative partner, an independent author of the film alongside the director Bertolucci.

For example, in the image above notice how the frame is partitioned by the wall behind the actors, with the each side matched by their costumes. Colour is character: dark and complex for Clerici, light and simple for his fiancee Giulia.

To me making a film is like resolving a conflict between light and dark, cold and warmth, blue and orange or other contrasting colours. There should be a sense of energy, or change of movement. A sense that time is going on – light becomes night, which reverts to morning. Life becomes death. (Vittorio Storaro)

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Man in the Street explained

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My new solo exhibition Man in the Street opens next Wednesday, June 10, at Tacit gallery, 312 Johnston St Abbotsford. This is the catalogue essay I wrote:

The human figures in this exhibition are details enlarged from Edwardian travel postcards. Over a century ago, from rooftops and high vantage points, photographers aimed their large plate cameras down at the street to capture urban scenes of pictorial interest.
By accident individuals passed into view and gave the buildings scale. They have few individual features, but a century ago they were real people and were preserved for ever at the moment of exposure.

The tiny scale of the figures in the postcards, only a few milimetres in size, combined with the ink dots that print- ed them to abstract their shape to the last degree of recognition. Scaled up in the exhibition the figures are beginning to dissolve into anonymity and formlessness.

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Man in the Street is part of my continuing exploration of entropy and disorder in representations of male identity. Working through a series of related projects over several years, I have been exploring the subject of masculine alienation and doubt. Using appropriated imagery taken from books, advertisements and even toys, photo-based techniques are used to process the imagery into new visual artefacts.

This project uses small details from my collection of early 20th century postcards. Its subject is the solitary male figure in public places and explores the commonplace idea that the individual is alone even in a crowd. This separateness extends to the interior world of consciousness, and the images in the exhibition seem to capture these anonymous figures deep in thought.

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The postcards used for these pictures are of London, Hamburg and other bursting cities of the new century. The rapid urban growth at that time meant there were new wonders to behold and new sights to capture. In New York and Chicago the skyscraper was born and a whole industry of postcards followed their upward progress.

Tourism and business travel provided a market for keepsakes, and as emigration flourished, families separated by vast distances were held together tenuously by photos and by postcards such as these, with their brief and, for us today, melancholy messages of love and attachment.

Since the photographs were made in the first years of the twentieth century, the people in these pictures are long dead; they have entered the oblivion suggested by their disintegrating forms in the pictures. But the cam- era can bring them back to life, at least provisionally, and they reach out to us across the intervening century. Photography is a time machine: when the shutter opens and closes, a thin slice of time is captured. That mo- ment is preserved while time moves on remorselessly.

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The anonymous men in these pictures are going about their busy work or are stopped in apparent contemplation. We can’t know what world of feelings they inhabited but they appear alone in their thoughts and caught up in the drama of their daily life. Perhaps the camera has captured them sulking over some perceived slight, or plotting a secret business advantage, or daydreaming about some romantic attraction. Whatever the case, they are frozen forever in that unknown moment.

Greg Neville 2015

 

Man in the Street

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Greg Neville, Man in the Street 1, 2015

My new solo exhibition, Man in the Street, opens at Tacit gallery on June 10.

The source of these images is my collection of Edwardian travel postcards, views of New York, London and other cities at the start of the 20th century.

These postcards show big city streets and tall buildings, but in the details you can find tiny human figures, a few millimetres in size, who happened to be captured by the camera. Enlarged to make gallery-size prints, the figures are fragmented by the printers dots and have an elemental quality, bordering on abstraction.

These anonymous individuals are caught up in their busy work, or stand motionless, seemingly lost in thought. Since they were photographed more than a century ago, they are long dead, but the camera brings them back to life, at least provisionally.

The exhibition opens at Tacit Contemporary Art, 312 Johnston St Abbotsford, on June 10, from 6.30 to 8pm. It runs until June 21.

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